Sexual Problems Related to Depression
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Good news! If you are experiencing sexual problems and you are one of the millions of Americans suffering from clinical depression, you are not alone! Depression is the top cause of disability in the U.S. for people aged 15-44, and sexual problems with depression are felt equally between both men and women. Thankfully, doctors usually can treat sexual problems associated with clinical depression, such as erectile dysfunction and inability to achieve orgasm. There is a relationship between clinical depression and sexual problems. But what is it?
To begin, we need to talk about an extremely sensitive sex organ that both men and women equally share….our brain. Our sexual desires begin in our brain - Starting with the enjoyment of the sexual feelings of arousal and anticipation, our sensations and feelings work all the way down into our bodies.
Our brains have unique chemicals called neurotransmitters. When we are aroused, these chemicals cause increased communication between our sex organs and our brain cells so more blood is ordered to flow towards our sex organs. Unfortunately, when you suffer from clinical depression, the neurotransmitters are not working correctly. When depression occurs, sexual desire is reported to be very low or non-existent with both men and women alike. Obviously, this can be an enormous burden to a relationship.
Although depression reduces sexual arousal, medications such as antidepressants can cause sexual problems too! Really? How? But I thought they could help with the symptoms of depression! Yes, antidepressants do help - We know they can aid with boosting your mood and improving your sense of self-worth, but they also have side effects. Unwanted side effects. Sexual side effects. Especially with the SSRIs, (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors).
As mentioned previously, our brains have unique chemicals called neurotransmitters - The communicators between our sex organs and our brain cells. Antidepressants work by changing the functioning of our neurotransmitters, which are the same chemicals involved with the sexual signaling process. The ones that are involved in our sexual responses are altered by the antidepressants in an imprecise manner, which results in the side-effect of blunted sexual feeling. Can the sexual side effects of antidepressants sometimes increase if the dosage of medication increases? Unfortunately, yes.
What are some of these side effects? They may include: erectile dysfunction (ED), delayed ejaculation, decreased sexual desire, or inability to achieve orgasm. However, there are solutions! The sexual problems associated with depression and antidepressants can be treated! How?
The most important thing for you to do is to speak with your doctor and try to find the cause of your sexual dysfunction or reduced sexual interest. Are these problems caused by your depression? Is the problem caused by your antidepressant or is it caused by another medical condition? If taking your antidepressant is the cause, it is possible to continue your treatment and manage the sexual side effects - Different medications may be prescribed, dosages may be adjusted, or other medications may be taken along side with your antidepressant.
Communication with your doctor and partner is the key. Speak openly with them, and remember that they can only help you if they are aware of the problem. Work collaboratively to find a solution. Overcome your embarrassment, and recognize that you are not the only person suffering from this problem. Remember that during everybody's lifetime there may be times when things go wrong with their ability to become aroused, achieve orgasm, or to have enjoyable sex. The best advice is for partners is always to talk about any sexual difficulties that arise in an open and honest manner.
Sexual problems may occur for a variety of reasons that are not necessarily due to chronic depression or side effects from antidepressants. Either way, treatment will require patience and understanding. If communication stalls and problems escalate, the whole relationship can be in jeopardy, so keep talking. Although reduced sexual sensitivity can be stressful, just remember that the problem is only temporary, and that by not addressing the issue, it can grow until it is a serious problem for your relationship. In many cases the problem may be only temporary, but serious sexual problems rarely get better by themselves, so remember to keep talking.
It's important that you don't let sexual challenges control your life, and if you find yourself losing the mental battle remember that there are doctors, friends, and family who are on your side and willing to do whatever it takes to help you. Many may find that through expressing their deep feelings and working towards resolution, open communication may revitalize their erotic connection.
Be positive. Keep in mind that the challenge of sexual problems is quite common in depression, and don't allow it to become you and your partner's most closely held and shameful secret. Remain open with your communication, and treat your depression as rapidly and effectively as possible. Remember that the sexual problems associated with antidepressants can be treated!
- Jeff Stein
I agree that when we recognize and acknowledge that the brain is the most important sexual organ for both males and females, then and only then can begin to determine the affects that chronic depression have on sexual intimacy and relationships.
Chronic depression can indeed often have an adverse affect on sexual intimacy. Furthermore, chronic depression combined with the potential of medications to adversely impact the neurotransmitters produced by our brains produce can often produce these unwanted side effects. These side effects would seem to often exacerbate both the depression that was originally diagnosed, because sex is a natural antidepressant, and the inability to engage in sex as a result of SSRI blunting could theoretically compound the problem.
Thankfully, society has matured regarding communication subjects of depression and/or sexual dysfunction are no longer taboo. For generations, the concept of counseling was thought to be a sign of weakness of character, but today it seems that the opposite may actually be the case - Choosing to attent therapy can be a sign of strength. General communication, is very important to the survival of both individuals and couples, so perhaps couple's therapy could be helpful for deepening intimacy. Indeed, the taboo subjects of the “Greatest Generation" are now openly discussed by the “Baby Boomers”, and discussion of these once taboo subjects has even become a necessity for the survival of relationships! Effective communication has become the key to mental, physical, and emotional stability - Especially when it comes to sex.
Depression. (n.d.). Retrieved December 3, 2014, from http://www.m.webmd.com/depression/guide/sexual-problems-and-depression